Published - 13-February-2006
Not too many years ago, advertising
agencies shied away from any sort of what
was known as 'below-the-line' activity.
They were reluctant to take a brief on any such sort of abovementioned activity; creatives fiercely fought to stay far and clear of it, and the unfortunates who got conned into it, or were too junior to protest being saddled with it, hid it from the rest of the world. Anyone who worked in DM (direct marketing; note it shares the same abbreviation with popular Indian slang 'DM', meaning down-market) agency was a pariah.
A DM agency was anything but 'specialised'; you had to be a dreg or cast-away of traditional advertising to have landed up in that profession. How wrong they were. It's taken the advertising industry decades to realise that what they considered as 'below-the-line', is in fact, an extremely specialised field; one that requires a very special kind of evolved talent to understand the dynamics of it.
David Ogilvy - many would agree - was a man before his time; one who was prophetic in many ways too. "Direct response: my first love and secret weapon", he is famous for having said. Few understood what it meant at the time, but today all heads nod in agreement.
Most, if not all, self-respecting advertising companies have full-fledged, independently functioning direct marketing arms.
Direct marketing means anything but handing out fliers and putting pamphlets in the mail in this day and age. With the boom of the Internet and mobile technology the world has gone digital, and what was once considered as 'below-the-line' marketing, is more like 'frontline' marketing these days.
'Below-the-line' and DM too, are terms of the past. Today, 'one-to-one' marketing is the way to go, with just one clearly defined objective: building bonds between consumers and brands. In a freewheeling 'one-on-one', Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman and CEO OgilvyOne Worldwide shares his knowledge, convictions and excitement on all things digital, and all things direct.
In which industries do you see new media playing the largest role in Indian marketing communications?
I think it's going to play a large role in a lot of different industries. It's already becoming well established in IT and business-to-business; that's probably the first place. I think financial services, FMCG and healthcare are three areas in particular to watch in India. I
think the emergence of the online banking services is going to be very interesting as we see the economy unfold. FMCG is so huge in India, and it's really just in the beginning of its journey into digital marketing.
We haven't talked much about healthcare. I get a very strong feeling around the world, and also in India, that healthcare will be an industry that makes extensive use of digital media in the future.
Once again, if you think of how consumers go through a journey, there's very deep information seeking from the consumers themselves when they find they have a new disease or condition. They are intensely interested and curious; search marketing - for example - plays very much into that. In other markets, we find that when people don't feel so good or get some medication from a doctor, one of the first things they do is go to the web and educate themselves about the condition. The healthcare process is quite complex; you have a patient, a physician, sometimes a laboratory, sometimes a pharmacist, and the connections between those people can often be done in a digital way. It's an area that we're starting to explore a lot. We're doing our first 'Healthcare Verge' in Europe this June, so we're going to explore it and bring that learnings to India as soon as possible.
So, I think that will be one of the areas that will be very strong.
Do you think we can see OgilvyOne Worldwide playing a leading role in educating India on Global best practices in digital marketing, from your clients to perhaps even your competitors?
Clients first, targeted prospects - people we'd like to go and do business with. I think we will play a role in the education of the industry; like we did at the Verge summit we just held in Mumbai, with industry experts and people from the media. I don't think we're going on a mission to educate our competitors, but we do see the opportunity to educate people to the possibilities of digital marketing. We will provide some thought leadership in digital marketing; it is part of our plan.
All marketers acknowledge that we're going to have to use new media, but there's an acute shortage of people in the industry today, who actually understand it. Will this be an impediment? How do you think we can overcome it?
It certainly is a very big challenge to find the talent that understands brands, understands a bit about the technology and also understands how to use the technology. So the programs that Renuka (Jaypal, President, OgilvyOne Worldwide, India) has here, the training programs that we have globally have a very powerful emphasis on digital skill sets.
The simplest thing to do would be to look for people in other agencies, who have an interest in the area, and then developing them ground up.